Sea option becoming viable for drug shipments

Trouble is brewing above. Though beleaguered airlines currently have plenty of room for drug cargo--and even appear to be catering to the drug business, as we've reported--they are cutting capacity. As the improving economy re-energizes global commerce in all industries, drug space on aircraft may become hard to find, says Kevin O'Donnell, a director at Tegrant Corp., in Pharmaceutical Commerce magazine.

A dozen vaccines are nearing approval for distribution in developing and middle-income countries, according to the Partnership for Appropriate Technology in Healthcare. And vaccine shipments are getting fatter: PATH projects a five-fold increase in cubic volume for three of these, thanks to the packaging of fewer doses per vial to minimize spoilage. In addition, temperature-sensitive biologics as a whole are growing nicely and projected to represent half of drug approvals by 2015.

These and other elements, when combined, will cause a cargo crunch. "If the airlines move too cautiously, capacity will become an issue," writes O'Donnell. "Even though pharmaceutical freight has a higher priority index than general cargo, there is a real potential that demand could exceed available capacity."

A transport alternative to consider is sea shipment, he says. "While the risk of putting multi-million dollar shipments of brand equity on the waves is not a consideration most pharma companies have entertained in the past, developing technologies for refrigerated sea containers and logistics" makes it worth a second look, according to O'Donnell. He provides a biopharma to-do list to help manufacturers prepare for the coming crunch.

- here's the article